So far, you’ve seen five writers at the site tackle the question of what the 2021 Opening Day roster for the Mets will look like. We all want to make moves to improve the club and now armed with an owner who seemingly is willing to spend money, it opens up opportunities that might not have been there otherwise. But it’s virtually an impossible task, predicting what potential trades and free agent signings could happen with essentially a universe of one, the guy writing the column. That’s what made the GM Project that we did a few years back so good. There you weren’t operating in a vacuum. Instead, you had 30 people making decisions in the best interests of their vision for their assigned team.

But that’s not what we have now. So, let’s try to move on the best we can. First, let’s acknowledge that all pieces of an offseason are inter-related and what happens in one area can and will influence what you do in another. Second, while you want to prioritize needs – that doesn’t mean that you tackle those needs in that order. If a deal comes along that can solve perfectly, say, your third problem, you make that move without waiting to solve the higher-rated issues first. Because that perfect solution may not be available if you wait for its turn in the order to arrive.

In my mind the main issue is the rotation. Nothing else comes close. And after a pretty big chasm the next need is catcher. And there’s another canyon from catcher to whatever comes next, whether that’s a RH bat or a CF or a bullpen piece. You may think that a bullpen piece rates higher but the Mets are fairly locked in with their relievers if the two guys with player options exercise them, as is expected. Since it’s been brought up, let’s look at the bullpen first.

Returnees from 2020 – Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Miguel Castro, Chasen Shreve
Expect to pick up player option – Dellin Betances, Brad Brach
Also in the picture somehow – Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Steven Matz, Drew Smith

Justin Wilson is a free agent and seems like a good guy to potentially bring back. Hopefully, he’s enjoyed his time in Queens and is agreeable to a reunion. Then, interestingly, this is where an ownership that isn’t pinching pennies can come into play. Previously, you’d expect them to retain Gsellman because he’s cheap and has a shot of being serviceable. But being cheap isn’t enough and what are the odds that Gsellman reverts back to his 2016 form? He should be non-tendered. Matz might have joined him if the Wilpons were still in power. It’s hard to justify a contract of $5 million or so on a guy who was outright terrible last year. But $5 million shouldn’t be a deal breaker for Steve Cohen, especially for a guy who returned $13.1 million of value in 2019. Consider him this year’s Michael Wacha – a low-cost upside gamble as a swing man. And hopefully one they won’t give too much rope. Finally, there’s one more chance for Cohen to flex his financial muscle. He can release Familia and remove the temptation for the manager to use him in a high-leverage spot. It’s kind of heartless to do this to a guy who came up through the organization. But the last thing we need to do is romanticize the past.

Now, let’s look at the starters.

Returnees from 2020 – Jacob deGrom, David Peterson
Also in the picture somehow – Lugo, Matz, Noah Syndergaard

The big question is if the Mets need two or three starting pitchers. Are you willing to gamble on the quirkiness of Trevor Bauer, who has never endeared himself to his teammates, has gotten into Twitter wars with former players and college students and who allegedly is only interested in signing one-year deals to maximize his value? Do you go after Marcus Stroman, who might be the second-best pitcher available but one who opted out on his teammates once he had the service time to become a free agent? Do you target Masahiro Tanaka, despite his declining velocity and partial UCL tear? Do you roll the dice on Taijuan Walker, a once-heralded prospect who’s never exceeded a 2.5 fWAR but who is angling for a big deal given his youth and untapped upside? Do you fancy Robbie Ray, who has outstanding stuff but may be a reliever waiting to happen? Or do you want to bank on comebacks from a veteran like Mike Minor or Jake Odorizzi or Jose Quintana? There are a lot of choices and none of them are really ideal. The best path here might be a trade.

Now let’s look at the catching.

Returnees from 2020 –
Also in the picture somehow – Robinson Chirinos, Tomas Nido

The Mets have an option on Wilson Ramos but it’s really hard to envision him coming back. They also have an option on Chirinos that seems too high but maybe they liked him and they’d work something out. Nido will be entering his last pre-arb season but is out of options. The best free agent available is a catcher, which might be exactly what the doctor ordered in J.T. Realmuto, who has been good both offensively and defensively. But he will be looking for a monster contract and will probably get both dollars and years. Plus, one of the Mets’ best prospects is a catcher. And while Francisco Alvarez is probably 2-3 years away, do you want to sign Realmuto to a five-year deal, especially with how catchers age? Are you willing to give him a giant AAV on a two-year contract? Would you be willing to go 2/$70, giving him enough to make passing up a five-year deal worthwhile? Or do you want to go with James McCann, who might be this year’s version of free agent class of 2018 Ramos? Or do you look to go with a veteran defensive guy, like Jason Castro or Mike Zunino (in the unlikely event the Rays don’t pick up his option) or even Yadier Molina?

Now let’s look at the rest of the offense.

Returnees from 2020 – Pete Alonso, Robinson Cano, Michael Conforto, J.D. Davis, Andres Gimenez, Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith
Also in the picture somehow – Luis Guillorme, Guillermo Heredia

The Mets’ offense in 2020 was really good. Which makes it surprising just how many questions surround this group going forward. Will the designated hitter return in 2021? All indications seem like that will be the case. That makes things a little easier but it still leaves questions. Who do you utilize at DH? Is it Alonso with Smith as the 1B? Is it Cano, with McNeil as the 2B? Is it Davis, with McNeil as the 3B? And how do you handle SS? Is a platoon situation between Gimenez and Rosario tolerable? And how big of a priority is it to get a good defensive CF in the lineup? And the ultimate question, assuming the DH returns, is: How do you fit nine guys for eight spots, when none of them result in a good defensive lineup?

Now let’s look at trades.

This is a thankless task. Whatever trade you might dream up, someone will tell you that you’re not giving up enough to get the guy you’re targeting or you’re massively overpaying for someone. But the trade targets are clear – a top of the rotation starter, a mid-rotation starter, catcher, defensive center fielder who’s not a zero offensively, a late-inning reliever and maybe even a third baseman. It’s just what are you willing to give up to get those type of guys.

And the trouble with fake trades is that we can never know other teams like we know the Mets. At best, we can make guesses as to where these other teams are on the success cycle and how highly they think of their prospects and how willing they might be to move a player on their major or minor league roster.

Do the Nationals consider themselves rebuilding and would they like to get out from their $34 million obligation to Max Scherzer? Would it be worth trading Smith to get him?

Do the Indians feel like they have enough pitching to address their woeful outfield, which didn’t have one guy post even a .700 OPS this past season? Would they take on Conforto’s upcoming deal for Zach Plesac?

Do the Dodgers feel like they have the catching depth to trade one of their two young backstops? Do they consider Victor Gonzalez a key member of their bullpen or is he available in the right deal? Would they trade Keibert Ruiz and Gonzalez for Alvarez, Lugo and Thomas Szapucki?

My feeling is that the new GM absolutely has to test the trade market. And the guys to shop are Conforto and Smith because they are coming off monster years that they’re unlikely to match, much less exceed, going forward. You listen on Alonso and McNeil and you’re willing to trade anyone in the farm as long as you’re getting something better than a reliever coming back in the deal, no matter how much you like the reliever.

Above you can see some of the deals that would be appealing to me. But that doesn’t mean the other team would like them or even consider making a counter. It just seems foolish to include trades given this great unknown. The unknowns for free agents are hard enough to deal with without adding a much greater degree of difficulty to the conversation.

So, everything you read next in this piece is done with the understanding that a) no trades are included. And b) trades should absolutely be considered by the real GM. With that out of the way, here’s how my offseason would unfold:

A – Non-tender Gsellman and Paul Sewald, buy out Ramos and Chirinos, tender all other arb-eligible players, DFA Familia
B – Feel out Realmuto on a two-year deal
C – Re-sign Wilson
D – Target two SP in this order of preference: Walker, Odorizzi, Stroman, Bauer, Minor, Quintana, Tanaka, Ray, Porcello
E – If necessary, target C in this order – Zunino, McCann, Castro, Molina
F – If the budget allows, look at Justin Turner on a one or two-year deal

With those as my touchstones, here’s one way a 26-man Opening Day roster for 2021 for the Mets could shake out.

SP – deGrom, Walker, Peterson, Porcello, Lugo
RP – Diaz, Wilson, Castro, Betances, Brach, Shreve, Smith, Matz
C – Castro, Nido
INF – Alonso, Cano, McNeil, Turner, Gimenez, Rosario
OF – Smith, Nimmo, Conforto, Davis, Heredia

In this case, McNeil’s at 2B, Turner at 3B, there’s the same SS platoon as this year, Smith’s in LF and Cano & Davis platoon at DH. If and when Syndergaard is ready to come back, whoever the weak link at starter goes to the bullpen and whoever the weakest reliever is goes to the minors or is released.

Both Franklyn Kilome and Corey Oswalt are out of options. The hope is that one of them makes it back to the team to function as a depth starter at Triple-A. There’s also Matz for this role in the bullpen and someone will have to be picked up on an NRI to act as a potential MLB rotation option in Syracuse. Maybe Ariel Jurado and Szapucki have an option left and can slot in this space, too. It’s my belief you need four depth starters. Syndergaard will be one, Matz will be another and you need two more. The specific names don’t interest me too much at this point. Just put it on the list to be done.

So, where does this leave our budget? The 26-man would be roughly $192.5 million and then you add in the money for Familia, Ramos and Chirinos and you have another $14 million. Finally, Seattle will be sending $3.5 million to cover its part of Cano’s deal. So, this roster would be in the neighborhood of $203 million.

What do we get for the money? Our top SP target (4/$72) and a veteran hurler (1/$10) who has already experienced pitching in Boston and New York. We also get a catcher (1/$8) with one of the top defensive reputations around. We add a big RHB to the lineup at 3B (2/$30) and a lefty (2/$16) who has been solid for the pen the past two seasons and one not fazed by the three-batter minimum.

Is it enough? As we saw this season, it depends on what the starters give. And hopefully a veteran defensive catcher can help get the best out of the pitching staff. It feels like we should get more bang for the buck. And that’s why the trade market is so important. It’s going to be hard to fill all of the needs from a free agent class that doesn’t feel particularly strong.

What if the Mets did the Indians and Dodgers trades outlined above? They would subtract the salaries for Conforto, Wilson and the catching Castro – leaving them around $30 million to go after George Springer. That would make the rotation: deGrom, Walker, Plesac, Peterson and Porcello. The bullpen would be the same except swapping out Wilson for Gonzalez. The lineup becomes:

RF – Nimmo
CF – Springer
LF – Smith
1B – Alonso
2B – McNeil
3B – Turner
DH – Cano/Davis
SS – Gimenez/Rosario
C – Ruiz

That’s great left/right balance with likely no dropoff offensively swapping Conforto for Springer and a better defensive alignment. But signing Springer doesn’t make much sense unless you trade an OF. And making it the highest-paid one allows you to still go after a top pitcher. It’s a gamble on Ruiz but he’ll have the advantage of not needing to contribute much offensively right away.

The nice thing about this team is the number of pre-arb players it would have. There’s Ruiz, Alonso, McNeil, Gimenez, Plesac, Peterson, Gonzalez and Smith. Maybe eight pre-arb players all by itself isn’t all that impressive but that’s 3.5 starting position players and two members of the starting rotation.

This would be a fun team to watch.

25 comments on “A 2021 Mets roster with no trades along with one with two deals

  • Not Mike Koehler

    I want no part of Rick Porcello in 2021. My brother is a New England fan after 2002 and I dug into Porcello while I wrote for this blog. His career year in Boston is an obvious anomaly and we can do better than the 5.64 ERA and 1.51 WHIP from this past season.

    Move Lugo back to the bullpen so he regains his elite form and sign Stroman, at least one more strong SP and then a better #4 or 5, keeping in mind Syndergaard will likely be back at some point.

    The club has so many position players that I’m not sure why there’s an interest in signing Justin Turner. Play McNeil at third and spell him with whichever infielder you need. Not like there’s not a glut between Davis, Cano, Giminez, Rosario, Guillorme, etc.

    • Rae

      Forget Springer, and save the money to sign the CF defensive whiz Jackie Bradley, Jr. Then make sure you sign Bauer, and either Corey Kluber or Jake Odorizzi for the 3 and 4 spots in the rotation. Make one relief signing and make sure it is Liam Hendriks or Pedro Baez than make sure you sign McCann to be the starting catcher while Nido can be the backup backstop. I’d have McNeil play 2B, and I’d have both Guillorme and Giminez as backup 2B men and 3B men behind Davis. Make sure you keep Smith as your main 1B man, while giving Alonso around 40% playing time there, 30% time at DH, and another 10% playing 3B. Alonso played 3B until the Mets decided to put him at first. A lineup with McNeil, Alonso, Conforto, Davis, Nimmo, McCann, Smith and either Rosario, Giminez or Guillorme to play SS sounds good to me Cano, Smith, Alonso, Smith and Davis should be the frequently used DH options. deGrom-Bauer-Odorizzi -or Kluber then Walker-and finally Peterson. Get a spare part semi-starter-semi reliever for depth or just let Lugo start a few games and still be a reliever option forth team.Peterson sound like a decent rotation to me.

  • TJ

    Brian,
    You’re hired for GM! That is, if you are willing to take a pay cut from Mets360.

    Molina is interesting, but he scares me. I mean, literally, he just scares me. And that may be a really good thing. Yes, he is old and near the end. But scaring may be exactly what some of these Met pitchers can use. There is basically no way they can fill the pitching void through acquisition, they are going to need some of these guys to get it together (hint: Matz, Familia). Additionally, with a top prospect catcher, who better to study under, even from afar. It the age of stats, it is hard to measure his value, but it could really work for this team.

    • Rae

      Molina is still a force to be reckoned with!!! This is not a man to “play” with without facing rough consequences. Molina would shut Bauer’s big mouth and bad behavior on and off the mound.

    • Rae

      Matz is a lost cause. They Need to trade him as both he and the team need him to have a change of scenery trade.

  • TexasGusCC

    In the piece you write Cano and Diaz platoon at DH, you mean Cano and Davis?

    Porcello? Seriously? You wouldn’t go with Kluber, Ordozzi, Gausman, Minor, or any other guy rather than a failed one? Also, Castro is a 34 year catcher. Brian, I can understand the reality of what you’re trying to do, but why release Familia over not trusting your manager and eating $11MM? And why not put Matz in the rotation as you mention his 2019 value? Also, don’t like the Turner move, I smell a bust. Here is what MLBTR wrote on him last week, and if you didn’t like the Mets bringing in a 36 year old Cano because older players break down, why this?

    “Justin Turner (36): Turner will be 36 in November, but he just keeps on raking at the plate. He posted a 140 wRC+ in 2020, slashing .307/.400/.450 in 175 plate appearances. By measure of wRC+ he’s been at least 32 percent better than a league-average hitter in all but one season since 2014 — he was “only” 23 percent better in 2016 — and he carries an overall .302/.382/.503 slash in more than 3000 plate appearances since landing in Los Angeles. Durability is something of a concern, and Turner’s once-excellent glovework has begun to deteriorate, but he’s still an outstanding offensive player. Age probably limits him to a short-term deal, which will actually be seen as a perk for some interested parties.“

    • Brian Joura

      Thanks for pointing out the Diaz/Davis issue – this has been fixed.

      None of the pitchers you mentioned are going to be available at what Porcello would get. Someone in an earlier piece thought they could get Walker at $6 per, which is pure fantasy. And I’d like to see what happens when Porcello doesn’t have a .373 BABIP. He had a 3.33 FIP last year so there’s fairly substantial upside here to go along with durability.

      After the flaming turd season that Matz just turned in, there’s no way I give him a starting rotation slot. He’s mop up reliever and SP depth that history proves will get his shot at some point. Just not at the beginning of the year and not for 32 starts.

      Everyone wants a defensive catcher until you have to get him and play him. I’m comfortable with this 1-year deal but I won’t argue with anyone who says we completely punt catcher, sign whoever we can get at the cheapest deal possible and pair them with Nido. And spend the rest on SP.

      You’ve got to pay Familia regardless. It’s not like if you keep him you don’t have to spend the money. Why compound the problem and play him?

      There’s a difference between an old 3B and an old 2B. And there’s a difference between a 2-year contract and a 5-year one. There’s a difference between $30 million and $100million. And there’s a difference between signing a free agent and trading players to get a guy. There’s also a difference between a RHB and a LHB and this team desperately needs a reliable RH bat. The injury problems are definitely a concern but with Davis still on the roster, the fact that Turner probably tops out at 130 games is not a deal-breaker. And Turner is still a much better defensive bet than Davis.

  • Metsense

    The Mets need starting pitching. The Mets should trade for a #2 starter or better and also sign two of three Walker/Stroham/Quintana. Trade trade bait would be one of Alonso, Smith, Nimmo, Conforto or Davis. McNeil should kept because of his versatility. Springer/ Castro or Bradey/ McCann should take care the CF and C at a similar price. Realmuto with a 2 yr overpay should be explored. Sign Wilson. Trade Famila paying some of his salary. Pass on Turner. Explore a FA set up man if the budget allows.

  • Rae

    McCann can be signed to catch with Nido being the backup. They need to sign Rene Rivera and let him play in AAA until the Mets have a catching injury, and then they can bring him over from Syracuse. The Mets also have Pat Mazeika whose catching and ability to throw runners out has really improved. He could be the 4th backup catcher also working out of Syracuse. The Mets should sign Stroman or Bauer. Stroman has the better personality as Bauer is a really hard guy for his teammates to like so Stroman is a better choice, and will be a reasonably priced commodity compared to what Bauer will be looking to get monetarily speaking. The Mets need to have Thomas Szapucki getting prepared to be a Mets rotation starter in 2021. A rotation of deGrom, Szapucki, Stroman, Lugo and Peterson could work. The Mets could also bring in Mickey Jannish and Tony Dibrell for spot starts on occasion. Springer is gonna cost too much for the Mets to sign so I think Jackie Bradley, Jr. might really workout well for the Mets especially if Chili Davis is the Mets hitting coach, Davis must be available in person for both home and away games. If he only wants to coach from the confines of his home via Zoom then the Mets need to move on from him. Chili really helped Davis, Alonso and Rosario hit well in 2019. Sandy needs to fire Jeremy Hefner and sign David Cone to be the pithing coach for 2021. Ron Darling did mention that Cone does want to coach in 2021.

    • TexasGusCC

      Interesting thought on Cone, but, what does he bring to the table? Ali Sanchez can play the role of Rene Rivera, otherwise, where does Sanchez fot in? Janis was signed last year by the Orioles as a minor league free agent. I think the O’s put him on the 60 man this year as I heard some chirping about how good he looked. Szapucki and Dibrell aren’t ready for the big time, but Szapucki in the bullpen to come along slowly and Dibrell in the AAA pen to become accustomed quicker to higher levels.

      • Rae

        The GM moron Brodie Dum Numbskull needs to be fired immediately or they could keep him as a scout as he does have a way of signing prospects?

  • Chris F

    One thing I think we can all agree on is that all issues (outside of firing BVW) begin with addressing the starting rotation. Right now the only person who is a legit MLB starter on the team is deGrom. I think any talk of Peterson some how dodging the reality of his > 4 AA EPA, fails to see what happened with the weirdness of 2020. Stroman was ok, but I think hes like a #4 in a quality rotation. Without a wildly aggressive stance to overhaul the starting rotation, I think the Mets are looking 75 wins tops. Im not overly concerned, because that is reality, and even worse at a time when the FA pool is dismal.

    • Brian Joura

      You also have to account for the fact that while Peterson’s Double-A ERA wasn’t good, he also had much better peripherals and was done in by a high BABIP and a low strand rate. Just like his 3.44 ERA in the majors this year can’t be taken at face value (4.52 FIP) neither can his 2019 ERA of 4.19 (3.19 FIP)

      Stroman has been in the league since 2014 and has 140 starts and a 113 ERA+ over 849.1 IP. If we look for all pitchers with at least 75 starts in this time frame – only 39 pitchers have put up a better ERA+ than Stroman. And Stroman has a 120 ERA+ from 2017-19. He’s a lot better than you’re giving him credit for.

  • Chris F

    If Peterson gets 30 starts in a normal MLB season he will have >1.5 WHIP and >5 ERA. I’m absolutely confident about that.

  • Edwin e Pena

    Lost me at bringing back Porcello. He stinks, point blank !

  • James O'Brien

    Brian, I like a lot of what you’ve proposed, but I don’t understand one of your decisions. Why trade Lugo for Gonzalez while, at the same time, trading away our best catching prospect? Is Gonzalez that much better? Is it because he’s younger and Lugo wants to start (where he was inconsistent in my view). It seems to me that we should keep Alvarez and Szapucki and sign McCann.

    I agree on passing on Stroman. What he did was bush league in my opinion. As for Porcello, I read an article somewhere recently which showed that he did about what could be expected for a fifth starter, so why not bring him back, esp. considering what he’d be paid.

    How do you view Marisnick?

    Thanks for the most thoughtful analysis I’ve seen yet.

    Jim

    • Brian Joura

      That trade is not just Gonzalez but Ruiz, too, who is considered one of the best catching prospects in baseball. Catchers are always in high demand, which makes me think McCann is going to get more dollars and more years than most anticipate. And if you have to sign McCann to a 4-year deal, aren’t you blocking Alvarez any way?

      I was in favor of the Marisnick deal when it happened – didn’t expect Taylor to be the guy he’s turned out to be. Marisnick performed well in his role but I can’t see bringing him back when Guillermo Heredia can do the same things at a fraction of the cost.

      • James O'Brien

        Thanks, Brian. I didn’t know anything about Ruiz (obviously). This was very helpful.

  • Name

    I would actually rather release Betances than Familia. That contract goes unnoticed by many but the structure of the deal deserves to be high on the list of mistakes by Brodie. Offering a deal where the upside is all with the player shows the kind of mental state that Brodie operates with.

    Familia at times showed something in 2020 and i never felt that way about Betances. Also, much better chance of Familia staying healthy.

    • Brian Joura

      My opinion is that this was Familia’s do-over year. He was lousy in 2019 but came into 2020 in great shape. But he still can’t throw strikes on a consistent basis and that’s why I’d get rid of him. I would give Betances the do-over year in 2021. Maybe he’ll be completely healthy and have a better fastball than he did in 2020. But I wouldn’t give him a very long leash.

      • Name

        Other members of the pen also have the same issue so it seems a little unfair that you are singling him out to be released versus the other guys.

        Brach – 2019 before joining the Mets had a 6.4 bb/9. In his 2 months with the Mets it was a 1.8 bb/9 but then in 2020 it was back up to 10.2 bb/9
        Castro also can’t throw strikes. 5 bb/9 last year, 4.7 bb/9 this year including a dismal 8 bb/9 in 1 month with the Mets.

    • TexasGusCC

      “ That contract goes unnoticed by many but the structure of the deal deserves to be high on the list of mistakes by Brodie. Offering a deal where the upside is all with the player shows the kind of mental state that Brodie operates with.”

      Beautiful Name. We don’t know what competition there was for Betances but he’s coming off an injury and one inning pitched the entire previous year. Usually these options are team options especially when under the stated circumstances you’re paying a reliever $10MM already.

  • Thomas M Christensen

    I didn’t see one mention of getting a trade for Cespedes or just outright him for something other then a bag of balls. He was carried for over 2 years and did nothing but get injured at his ranch twice .Lets put his name in the ring and see what you can get in return for him? I bet the Marlins would love to have his bat so see what Jetter says ??

    • Brian Joura

      Cespedes is a free agent five days after the World Series ends. No one is giving anything for that.

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